What the National Energy Strategy Means for the Nuclear Power Industry: Remarks of Dr. Richard A. Meserve, Chairman, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, before the Energy Investor Policy & Regulation Conference, New York City, December 4, 2001   [open pdf - 57KB]

In the aftermath of the attacks, many immediately asked about the consequences if a large airliner, fully loaded with jet fuel, had crashed into a nuclear power plant. We had to say candidly that we were not sure. We know that reactor containments are extremely robust, that nuclear plants benefit from redundant safety equipment, that operators are trained to respond to unusual events and that carefully designed emergency plans are in place. Nuclear power plants are certainly far more capable to respond to an aircraft attack than other civilian infrastructure. But the NRC had never previously had reasons to perform a detailed engineering analysis of the consequences of a deliberate attack by a large airliner. We are performing those analyses today. Certainly the various steps to improve air security generally should serve to reduce any current risk. Since long before September 11th, the NRC has required the operators of nuclear power plants to have in place a strong defense to other types of possible terrorist attacks. Although the details are understandably classified, this typically involves a fenced perimeter, intrusion detection devices, access barriers, heavily armed and carefully trained guard forces, and a comprehensive defensive strategy. This program is subject to comprehensive NRC regulatory requirements and detailed inspection, including periodic force-on-force exercises. Nuclear power plants have long had defensive capabilities that far exceed those of other civilian infrastructure.

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